Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Adelaide North Terrace Cultural Precinct

My last day in South Australia I spent in the Adelaide North Terrace Cultural Precinct. North Terrace runs east west on the northern edge of the Adelaide central business district, next to the Torrens River. Within a kilometer along the terrace are campuses of the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia, the State Library, Museum and Art Gallery.

I stayed in the Hotel Richmond, which is located in an arcade between the main shopping precinct (Rundle Mall) at the front and North Terrace behind.

On the next corner is the Centre for Defence Communications & Information Networking (DSIC), where I met the director, Dr Bruce Northcote who was giving a talk that evening to the ACS. The previous evening I had given a talk on how the IT industry could help defence. The building housing DSIC has a learning commons on the ground floor, with informal computer equipped meeting spaces for students.

As befits a high technology university building, the one housing DSIC had the most complicated lift buttons I have ever seen: to call am lift, rather than pressing a button for "up", you enter the floor you wish to go to. Presumably the lift control system then optimises the traffic.

I walked through the Adelaide University grounds to the banks of the Torrens Rive, where there are kilometres of cycling and walking tracks. A short walk up the river and around the corner was the State Library of South Australia. In the cafe I happened across Dr Genevieve Bell , Intel Fellow, Digital Home Group Director, User Experience Group, Intel Corporation, who talked in Canberra last week.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sydney Bus Theatre

Poster for Stories from the 428Last night I attended "Stories from the 428" at the Sidetrack Theatre,, Sydney. The work is a series of vignettes on and around the NSW State Transit Authority, STA number 428 bus route. The route starts at Circular Quay, in the heart of Sydney and through Sydney's Newtown university student areas, then past the Sidetrack Theatre. The bus stops outside the Addison Road Centre, Marrickville where the performance was held and many of the audience were able to relate to the characters and situations portrayed (some of the characters being based on them).

The stage is set up to evoke a STA bus stop and bus (but will be familiar to any city commuter). The bills for the performance, program and cards are all cleverly designed with the same theme looking like Sydney bus tickets. The pay starts with a line of commuters wating for a bus and all reading the Metro free newspaper in synchronism. This opening reminded me of a recent production of short plays at the New Theatre, in its ballet of paper folding, as did the overall format of the production.

The vignettes are funny, insightful and in some cases confronting and frightening. One in which an obsessive character places rubber bands on his writs and describes in clinical detail the effect on his hand was very worrying. However, overall this is a warm celebration of community amongst the city.

This was week one of the show and in week two (until the 4th April, 2010) a new team of directors and writers take over exploring the same theme, so I might get back on the bus for another ride.

If attending a performance, take time to explore the Addison Road Centre,with its assortment of community and arts organisations. Also drop into Glow Worm Bicycles down the road.

You can take the 428 bus from Circular Quay to the Theatre. While the theatre pays homage to the bus, this is not reciprocated. When I tried to plan this route with the NSW travel planner, I found that the system did not know where the Addison centre was and when I tried the street address, the system wanted to send me to Goulburn, in southern NSW.

ps: Perhaps next we need some stories from Istanbul bus, tram, ferry, train to Thessaloniki. Sitting on a ferry heading under the Galata Bridge in Instanbul, the old man sitting next to me filled his chest with pride and swept his hand out in an expansive gesture to the view and said something in Turkish. I don't speak Turkish, but it was something like: "Look at My Magnificent City". In Thessaloniki, home to the original "Young Turks", plotters and spies, I happened to met an agent of a foreign government and take them for a ride on the local bus (while they were an expert international arms smuggling, they could not work out the local bus tickets).

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Disaster Proofing Heritage Collections

The Australian Library and Information Association is hosting a symposium on "Disaster Proofing Heritage Collections" (registration) with Blue Shield Australia & DISACT, 6 May 2010 at the National Library of Australia, in Canberra.

Recently the International Council on Archives passed on a request to the international community for assistance in preserving the cultural heritage of Haiti. In addition to physical work to shore up buildings damaged in the recent earthquake and to remove cultural materials to safety the Statement of Requirements identified the need for IT staff and equipment to assist in digitising and recording cultural materials. When visiting Samoa to teach information technology for Museum staff, I heard of instances where artefacts were removed to "safety" because of a disaster, but were never seen again. As there were no good records, it was not possible to know what was missing or if it was stolen, or mislaid in a warehouse somewhere. Thus the need for records.
Developing updated guidelines for environmental conditions in collecting institutions
Julian Bickersteth
Guidelines for environmental conditions in collecting institutions have for the past 40 years or so been defined within fairly narrow parameters. ...
AICCM has established a Taskforce to develop guidelines for Australian conditions based on current international standards, which are changing as a result of these pressures. Julian Bickersteth is the chair of the Taskforce and will be detailing the progress that has been made to date on developing these guidelines ....

AICCM Victorian Division’s Response to the Victorian Bushfires of 2009: After Disaster Struck.
Alexandra Ellem
This paper presents key aspects of AICCM’s response to communities affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires and the unique role conservation can play regarding disaster response and cultural heritage. ...

Centre for the National Museum of Australia Collections: a proposal for sustainable collections storage and management.
Greer Gehrt and Eric Archer
The National Museum of Australia (NMA) recently completed a functional design brief for the design and development of new storage and collection management facilities for the National Historical Collection.
As part of this process, the NMA has undertaken extensive studies into the use of passive building technologies. ...

Alert But Not Alarmed: A decade of the Disasters ACT Network.
Bernard Kertesz
DISACT (the DISasters ACT network) is a network of disaster preparedness practitioners operating in south-eastern New South Wales and centred in the Australian Capital Territory. Although largely driven, resourced and enabled by the major Commonwealth cultural collecting institutions, the network participants represent more than 25 Commonwealth, ACT Government and private sector organisations. ...

Meeting and Reporting “Conservation Standards” for Environmental Conditions; The Government’s Key Performance Indicators Versus The Real World
Jennifer Lloyd
It is not unreasonable that the Commonwealth Government expects the custodianship of the nation’s heritage collections to be a responsible one. Maximising the life expectancy of these collections is a priority for all cultural collecting institutions. ...

Blue Shield Australia - Building Disaster Resilience into the Australian and Asia-Pacific Heritage Sectors
Detlev Lueth
The Blue Shield is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross. The distinctive emblem was specified by the UNESCO’s 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. It is also the name of the International Committee of Blue Shield (ICBS), set up in 1996 to advise UNESCO on the protection of the world's cultural heritage threatened by wars and natural
disasters. With the permission of the ICBS in 2005 Blue Shield Australia was established. BSA’s vision is to influence disaster preparedness and emergency management in Australia in order to ensure the
preservation of cultural heritage within Australia’s areas of responsibility and influence. ...

Not If But When! Some Observations on Collection Disaster Preparedness Around Australia.
Kim Morris
Disaster planning for collections has been a feature of cultural activity in collecting institutions in Australia since 1985 when the National Library suffered a serious and devastating fire. Major national and state institutions recognised the need to prepare for collection disasters and began developing
response and recovery plans. ...

AICCM and a National Response Network
Kay Söderlund
Spurred on by the year that saw the Victorian bush fires and the Queensland floods, AICCM has started work on a project to develop a National Response Network in order to more effectively help communities and museums that have been devastated by disasters. Kay Söderlund, National President of AICCM, will briefly outline the project and the plan for the coming year. ...

Planning for Floods in a Drought: Cooperative Regional Responses to Disasters
Roger Trudgeon
The secret to good risk management is planning to deal with events that you would normally deem to be impossible. In the midst of the state’s worst drought in years, the Gold Museum, Ballarat was flooded on New Year’s Day in 2007. In the context of climate change and the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events it is essential to think ahead as to how we face such catastrophes. ...

From: Paper abstracts and biographies, Disaster Proofing Heritage Collections, Australian Library and Information Association, 2010

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture

Zoeller 507-0005 Basement Sentry Battery Backup Pump SystemIstanbul has been designated as a "2010 European Capital of Culture" by the European Union. There are a lot of cultural things to see and do in Istanbul, but you would be hard pressed to find them from the official web site. Most useful is the calendar of events. See also my Istanbul by Public Transport.

There are two official documents. Unfortunately, while these must be magnificent in printed format, with high quality photos of the city, they are too large and cumbersome when translated into PDF documents. It is a shame some of this effort was not put into making a more usable web site. The official web home page had 255 HTML Validation errors and is not mobile friendly.

One document is the "Istanbul 2010 2010 European Capital of Culture Program". This is 137 pages of PDF (15 Mbytes):
Hayati Yazıcı / 6
Hüsamettin Kavi / 7
Sekib Avdagiç / 8
Yılmaz Kurt / 9
Pécs / 16
Ruhr / 18
Vısual Arts / 22
Musıc / 40
Theatre and Performıng Arts / 62
Fılm Documentary Anımatıon / 76
Tradıtıonal Arts / 84
Internatıonal Relatıons / 92
Urban Culture / 108
Educatıon / 120
Lıterature / 126
Cultural Herıtage and Museums / 136
Urban Implementatıons / 150
Urban Projects / 166
Marıtıme / 184
Corporate Relatıons / 190
Promotıon / 198
Parallel Actıvıtıes Supported by Istanbul 2010 / 210
The second publication is the Istanbul 2010 Magazine (49 pages, 14 Mbytes of PDF):
10 Cultural and art events calendar
14 Private museums
20 Interview HAYAT‹ YAZICI, Minister of State:
“2010 is the year in which change begins”

28 Yenikap›: Istanbul 8,500 years ago
Discovering the future in the trails of the past
Tsunami and pickle effect
36 An ArcheoPark in Küçükyal›
40 Sur-i Sultani will be protected
The Story of the Strategic Plan for Sur-i Sultani
44 First city museum to be founded on the Islands
46 Interview ‹LBER ORTAYLI, President of Topkap› Palace Museum “2,000 Years of Common Heritage”

50 Interview
"Istanbul will be a stage for arts and life to act upon"
54 Interview PAUL MCMILLEN and HAKKI MISIRLIO⁄LU, creative directors of Istanbul 2010 ECOC Agency's domestic and international promotional campaings
60 Literature
40 books, 40 authors, 40 districts: “‹stanbulum”
64 Art is Everywhere!

Works and Lives in Istanbul
Portable Arts
Photography Parade
Kad›rga Art Production Centre
70 Cinema
1001 Istanbuls in My Binocular
Cinema Lies as the Heart of Istanbul
At›f Y›lmaz Studio
74 European Culture Award goes to “41º-29º ‹stanbul Network”
75 Istanbul’s Century-Long Transformation: 1910-2010 exhibition
76 Istanbul on the stage!
First Istanbul International Opera Festival
Seond Istanbul International Ballet Competition
Dance, theatre, music: Barbarossa
80 Classical Turkish Music is being archived
82 Inspired
84 Symbols of the City
90 Books and CDs on Istanbul
92 Leaving trails behind
EU Culture Capital is a well deserved honour, but curious as:
  1. There are three such capitals for 2010: the other two are Essen in Germany and Pécs in Hungary
  2. Istanbul is not a member of the EU
  3. Only half of Istanbul is geographically in Europe, the other half is in Asia.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Violin, cello and walk in Sydney

Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church, Cnr. Johnston & Collins Streets, Annandale, NSW, AustraliaEmma West (violin) and Emma-Jane Murphy (cello) will perform Partita No.3 in E major for solo violin, BWV 1006 and Suite for solo cello (J.S. Bach), plus Sonata for violin and cello (Maurice Ravel) on at the 2009 Spring Festival Concert, Hunter Baillie Church, Annandale, Sydney, 11 October 2009. The day before is the next Eco-Artists' Walk to the Whites Creek Wetlands and Wildlife Corridor (Facebook, blog ecoannau, twitter #ecoannau).

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Australian Indigenous Languages Database

AUSTLANG The Australian Indigenous Languages Database was launched at the National Indigenous Studies Conference today. One of my former students at ANU worked on this
The AUSTLANG system assembles information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages from various sources. The core of AUSTLANG is the AUSTLANG database (online Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages database) which is linked to Google Maps. The system also facilitates access to other databases, PDF files and links to websites, which all provides information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. AUSTLANG enables users to search for a language by a language name or a place name, or by navigating Google Maps, and to view a variety of information on the language. AUSTLANG users can also launch a catalogue search of the AIATSIS collection catalogue, MURA.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sophistry and the New Acropolis Museum

Last year I visited the New Acropolis Museum in Athens and had some criticism of the design preferring the well proportioned Delphi Museum. However, this was mild compared to the attack mounted by Alexandra Stara in "The New Acropolis Museum: banal, sloppy, badly detailed sophistry" (The Architectural Review, June 2009).

There is something in Stara's comment the banality of the museums spaces. When I visited, the museum had not yet been op opened and so perhaps I forgave the large empty spaces. Staracriticises the building's use of low cost materials, whereas I liked the stripped classicism, including suggestions of Greek columns in modern material. The building is basically a rectangular box with a smaller glass box on top, rotated about 15 degrees to match The Parthenon.

The time it took to build the building was due to finding archaeological ruins underneath (but how could you dig a hold in Athens and not find ruins?) and planning issues with surrounding building, these are not the fault of the architect. Also the critic seems to confuse the architect's rhetoric about the building with the building itself. Many architects are inclined to use flowery language to describe all sort of theoretical concepts not evident in their buildings. Provided the building functions, doesn't fall down and the roof doesn't leak, the designers can be forgiven these literary indulgences.

Stara invokes the name of Plato, accusing the architect of sophistry. However, the word has two meanings, one an illogical argument for deception, the other, older meaning, is wisdom.

ps: See also Curating Architecture and the City by Sarah Chaplin and Alexandra Stara.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Grilled Sardines with Market Salad and Chilli Jam

If you are near the Purple Pickle Cafe in Canberra and have not yet had lunch today, then I recommend the Grilled Sardines with Market Salad and Chilli Jam. This is the best I have had this side of the Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Two Sides of Japan Model Railway

City section of the Two Sides of Japan Model RailwayThe Canberra Model Railway Club held its Expo 2009 last weekend. Highlight of the event was the "Two Sides of Japan" display in N Gauge, showing not only bullet trains speeding across the countryside, but a Japanese city with electronic display signs and light rail. Unfortunately while there is a web site detailing how this was built, there are no photos doing the finished layout justice.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Science in Islam Hapmered by Poor PR

The Collins Class Submarine StoryScience and Islam: A History by Ehsan Masood (Icon Books Ltd , 2009) gets a good review in New Scientist ("Time to acknowledge science's debt to Islam?, Jo Marchant 25 February 2009). Both the book and the reviewer look for explanations for science not being as prominent in the Islamic world. However, I doubt this is a real phenomenon and may be just bad marketing on the part of science. As an example I visited the Museum of Technology and Islam the day after it opened in Istanbul. By now I assumed I would easily find details of the museum and its fascinating exhibits on the web. But the museum seems to be hard to find and Masood's book has no mention of the Museum.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Tamil food fair Homebush

Happened accross the Tamil food fair in the grounds of Homebush Public School, Opposite the Homebush South shops in Sydney. This has Tamil and South Indian cuisine cooked by a very organised team of community volunteers. The Monthly Food Fair is on the first Saturday of the month (10am-3pm). Most people were getting take away, but a few stayed for a picnic. The Biryani (rice), lamb and Dosa (crêpe) were excellent. The Egg Roti I had was custom made with the onion but leaving out the chilli (much like an omlette cooked inside a pancake).

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Antikythera mechanism

Antikythera mechanism in the the National Archaeological Museum of AthensThe National Archaeological Museum of Athens was a bit of a disappointment. This holds important artefacts from ancient Greece, but perhaps too many. Any one room of the museum could justify a whole museum in its own right. As a result the impact of individual items is lessened by their quantity. But feeling like I has seen enough old marble I was caught up short by a small corroded piece of metal in a small case. This was the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical calculator, far more complex than an astrolabe and possibly designed by Archimedes.

Some months ago I attended a talk where the speaker claimed, not completely seriously, how modifications to the design of the Antikythera mechanism were identifiable in the mechanism and these were the world's first known "software upgrade". Seeing the real thing was very exciting.

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New Acropolis Museum

This week ABC TV is featuring the New Acropolis Museum (Greece - Losing their Marbles , Foreign Correspondent, Reporter: Helen Vatsikopoulos, 07/10/2008). Earlier in the year I visited the museum , when only the foyer was open and the exhibits were stacked in crates. The building reminded me of Parliament House Canberra. There is a risk the scale of the building will overwhelm the exhibits.

The building is conveniently located near a metro station at the base of the Acropolis. It is built on concrete columns over an archaeological site, discovered during construction. Glass panels in the floor outside and in the foyer of the building allow the site to be viewed beneath your feet. This can be a little disconcerting. More seriously, the steel mesh in the floor at the front door is open to the site below, so that dirt and debris will fall down and contaminate the site.

The building foyer has good circulation space, but the lack of facilities such as toilets may be a problem. The grandeur of the entrance is spoilt somewhat by a row of ticket turnstiles, making it look like a metro station. In fact some of Athens metro stations look more like museums than the museum does, with materials discovered during metro construction on display.

While large, the building is not overly lavish. There is good use of modern materials in a stripped classicism style, including suggestions of Greek columns in modern material. The building is basically a rectangular box with a smaller glass box on top, rotated about 15 degrees.

When filled with antiquities, the space should work well. But I would have preferred something less grand, such as the more modest, but well proportioned Delphi Museum. Rather than one big building, the resources could have been spent in improving archaeological exhibits accross Greece and in particular on the Acropolis itself. What is needed is better interpretation of the material, particularly using computer based displays.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Camping in the Middle of Sydney Harbour

Ferry RADARThe worlds greatest tourist bargain is available until early September in Sydney. The Biennale of Sydney is an art festival held at venues around the city. One venue is Cockatoo Island, in Sydney harbour.

The vintage ferry "RADAR" (which looks like something out of "Thomas The Tank Engine") takes you on a free harbour cruse past the Sydney Opera House, to the island for the free art display. The art is in the historic former convict settlement and Australian Navy shipyards. There are also camping facilities on the island, with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The art on display is not that good, overwhelmed by the craft art of the buildings and their machinery. However, the site is worth a visit if only to see the harbour from a new vantage point.
Cockatoo Island
For the first time, this year the Biennale takes over Cockatoo Island – the largest island in Sydney Harbour and Australia’s most unusual urban park. A former prison and shipyard, Cockatoo retains many remnants of its past. Its prison buildings have been nominated for World Heritage listing, along with other convict sites around Australia. For this year’s Biennale, 35 artists are utilising buildings and sites across the island. Spend a few hours exploring the exhibition at this wonderful location. A free ferry service leaves hourly every day between 9.45 am and 4.45 pm from the Commissioners Steps outside the Museum of Contemporary Art and from Pier 2/3, Walsh Bay. This shuttle service will also return from the island. Last departure 5.15 pm. ...

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Hollowmen Solid

The ABC TV's new satire "The Hollowmen" got off to a solid, but not that funny start. The series is about a fictional policy development unit in parliament house, working for the prime minister. This is Australia's equivalent of "Yes Minister", if not "The West Wing". The first episode was about development of a policy on obesity. The prime minister first announced that the government was going to do something and then the policy people had to quickly respond to give the impression there was a policy.

The point of view expressed in the show is much the same as Frontline, produced by the same crew and with some of the same actors: there are those who are cynically manipulating the system with no interest except what helps them, there are those who are largely clueless as to what is happening but have the communication skills to make it appear they know, and there are experts who care and do know what to do but are kept from doing it by their lack of ability to manipulate the system.

The show explores the power relationship between the people in Parliament House: the politicians, the party staff, advisers, media, lobbyists and public servants. The message seemed to be that the only way to stay in political power is to spend your time trying to stay in power, with the result you actually have little real power.

As a former public servant I have been on the edge of this process, having very occasionally visited parliament house and a few times having to be involved with ministers offices. My experience was not that shown in the show: the people working there were sincere and did concern themselves with the public good. They did take advice from public servants. But they did have to balance this against political issues. The public servants did have a high level of frustration, but were not as naive as portrayed in the show.

Later as an ex-public servant I have been involved in the political process, helping with policy on ICT and the internet. What I found most heartening, was when an issue was the politicians were willing to work together across party lines in the public interest. They genuinely wanted to know what to do. But they then needed to temper that with what would be politically and publicly acceptable.

One activity I was involved in with which might be seen as a cynical political exercise was the 2020 summit. The critics called this a talk fest, which it was, but was still of some use.

The level of cynicism expressed in the show kept me from enjoying much of the humor. I found the plot with the manipulation of an important public health hard to believe. However, I then heard a real news report about the opposition's policy on climate change, which is that they support carbon trading but not if it increases the price of petrol. Given that the purpose of carbon trading is to reduce carbon emissions from sources such as petrol by using price signals, this makes no sense in the real world. However, in the political world a policy which would cause the deaths of millions of people in the long term makes sense if it temporarily fools the voters into thinking you are doing something.

What will likely save the show is the level of authenticity: the sets look like the corridors and meeting rooms of the real parliament house. The characters look and sound like the people working there, to the point where at a casual glance it looks like a documentary. However, this may turn into an inside joke, with only those involved in this process enjoying the joke, at the expense of themselves and their colleagues, with the rest of use just confused as to what it is all about.

ps: Perhaps it is another inside joke, but the web site for the show, demonstrates a cynical disregard for the viewer, having some flashy animation and graphics, with very little actual content. The design of the site is so bad that it probably illegal. If this is intended to be a comment on government web sites, it misses the mark, with the Prime Minister and Cabinet web site being informative and well designed.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

High-tech access for heritage sites

While in Greece I noticed that some cultural sites and museums were not opened at the advertised times. According to a recent media report, this is an embarrassment to the Greek government ("Run-down heritage sites embarrass the Greeks", Helena Smith, The Guardian, June 23, 2008). The solution given in the article was longer opening hours and more staff, but I am not sure that is the correct approach.

The sites tend to open early in the morning and close in the afternoon (8am to 3pm). The media article claimed this was due to public servant working hours. But in the hotter months, it makes sense to be outdoors during the cooler early parts of the day. If the outdoor sites were open in the hottest parts of the afternoon, many tourists, particularly those getting off air conditioned cruise ships, would suffer in the heat.

One tip I do have for tourists to Delphi, and similar places in the hotter months, is to tour the outdoor sites as soon as they open in the morning. You usually have an hour of the monuments to yourself between 8 and 9 am, before the tour buses arrive. Then when it starts to get hot, go indoors to the air conditioned museums.

Don't be put off by the gates being closed. At a few sites the staff did not get around to opening until they saw they had some customers. In one case the gates were firmly locked and no staff were about. But after a five minute visit to the adjacent souvenir store, the site was then open (with some of the people who were sitting in the store now on site).

At the excellent Folklife and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia at Thrace, there was a sign on the side gate pointing to the front door, and a sign on the front door which said it was closed. Going back to the side door, there appeared to be people in there and having gone in I found the museum open with several staff waiting to assist. One staff member then went around turning on video introductions and interactive displays. On exiting I noticed the sign on the side gate had been changed to say to enter there.

More use could be made of computers and technology at major Greek cultural sites. In particular the Athens Acropolis needs something to stop it crumbling under the feet of thousands of tourists and to give them better access. Even the path marked for disabled users is made of slippery and uneven marble, polished smooth by many feet.

People Movers for the Acropolis

One solution for the Acropolis would be to install small automatic people movers. These would be a high tech version of the tourist trains commonly used to ferry tourists around the streets. In place of the noisy diesel engine they would have electric power. The units could run on a safe low voltage electric track, or be battery powered on rubber tires, or a combination of both.

This would require minimal alteration to the site and cause far less damage than have tourists wandering everywhere. Staff costs would be reduced and the individual cars could be equipped with commentary in different languages. Using computer control each car could be individually controlled, so that tourists would not have to wait for a whole train to be full.

Web Displays for Greek Museums

Another useful feature would be to provide more computer based displays for the museums. This would allow for more languages to be provided. The Folklife and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia had an excellent display of the history of the pot in greece, but all of the captions were only in Greek. The information could also be placed on the web for information. The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has attempted to provide details of museums on their web site. But this is a very large task. Being able to use the same information in the museum and on the web would make the task much easier. The Wikipedia has also attempted to catalog Greek museums, and it might make sense to combine the two efforts.

Online information for museums could be downloaded into the visitor's mobile phone. Existing web based services could translate the captions into any of dozens of languages and the result could even be turned into an audio commentary automatically. These are all features which major museums already have, but are prohibitively expensive to develop for every display in minor museums. However, free web based services can now be used to provide it if the museum information is on the web.

Cafes at Museums

One surprising lack in most Greek museums and monumental sites site is a cafe. Apart from the
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
which has a cafe with a courtyard which is a work of art in itself and the Delphi Archaeological Museum with an outdoor cafe, most Greek museums do not have cafes. The traditional approach seems to be to have the cafes outside the gate. However, better integration might help keep the sites open longer and cover the costs.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Museum of Technology and Islam Opened in Istanbul

Photo of new Museum of the History of Islam, Science and TechnologyWalking through Gülhane Park in İstanbul today, I noticed a sign announcing the opening of the "Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam". I stuck my head in the door and met Dr. Detlev Quintern from Bremen University. The Islamic Science and Technology Historical Museum was opened Saturday by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The museum is in what were the Imperial Stables in Gülhane Park in the gardens next to Topkapı Palace. The museum will be opne 9 am to 4pm. It has technological and scientific works by Islamic scholars and is by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA), the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Frankfurt Goethe University (Germany).

There are three buildings along the edge of the park making up the new museum, with three and a half thousand square meters of display and research offices. There is also a Library of History of Science in the complex.

Currently there are only 140 items on display, but this is planned to be expanded to 800. The museum has replicas of inventions by Muslim scientists between the 8th and 16th centuries, from astronomy, geography, chemistry, surveying, optics, medicine, architecture, physics and warfare.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

National Folk Festival

Greetings from the National Folk Festival in Canberra. The National Library of Australia is providing an internet cafe and WiFi alongside the union concert (with Senator Lundy comparing). Apart from the music there are displays with an ecological theme. One was from ANZSES with solar energy displays.

One of the more unusual acts, is the House Howlers, an a cappella singing group made up of journalists from the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, including Karen Middleton. They sing satirical songs about politicians.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Copyright and the Internet Archive, Canberra, 3 April 2008

Matthew Rimmer will be giving a free talk in Canberra, 3 April 2008, in the National Library's Digital Culture talk series on copyright law and the Internet Archive . Recommended:
Back to the future: copyright law, Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine

Dr Matthew Rimmer

Internet Archive provides free 'universal access to human knowledge' to researchers, historians, scholars and the general public. Their delightfully named Wayback Machine provides access to websites that have been significantly altered or may no longer exist. Notwithstanding this altruistic endeavour, Internet Archive has been embroiled in a number of policy debates over copyright law over the extension of copyright term, 'orphan' works, take-down notices, digital locks and large-scale digitisation projects. The Internet Archive has also been involved in litigation as a plaintiff, a defendant, and an amicus curiae (a friend of the court). In the light of such policy debate and litigation, there is a need to reform digital copyright laws so that digital libraries such as Internet Archive can flourish - without fear of disruption from copyright owners.

Dr Matthew Rimmer is a senior lecturer and the director of Higher Degree Research at the ANU College of Law, and an associate director of the Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture (ACIPA). He holds a BA (Hons) and a University Medal in literature, and a LLB (Hons) from the Australian National University, and a PhD in law from the University of New South Wales. Rimmer is a member of the Copyright and Intellectual Property Advisory Group of the Australian Library and Information Association, and a director of the Australian Digital Alliance.

Dr Rimmer will be introduced by Laura Simes, Copyright Advisor, National Library of Australia

Date: Thursday 3 April 2008
Time: 12.30 to 13.30
Venue: Library Theatre
This talk is free and open to everyone.

Bobby Graham
Web Content Manager
Web Publishing Branch, IT Division
National Library of Australia
Tel: +61 2 6262 1542

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Bollywood History of Modern India

Cover of the book Bollywood: A History By Mihir BoseLooking for something to read for the holidays, I came across "Bollywood - A History" by Mihir Bose. This is really a history of the Indian film industry, which, as the Wikipedia points out, is more than Bollywood. In part it is also a history of modern India, its suffering under British rule and US cultural influence.

Bose points out that a film was shown in India only seven months after the first one was shown in Paris by the Lumiere brothers in Paris on 28 December 1895. He relates how Maurice Sestier, on his way from Paris to Australia to promote cinema, stopped over at Bombay and put on a showing at 6 pm 7 July 1896. Another Australian connection is the actress Mary Ann Evans from Perth, Western Australia made films in India in the 1930s, under the name "Fearless Nadia".

I had my own Bollywood experience when, shorty after arriving in Goa I sat down on the dais next to the mother superior of the local convent school on prize day. One of the students doing the MCing announced "... and now a traditional dance from the people of ..." and several hundred students broke out into a Bollywood dance routine. On the same trip I a ttended the Goa Documentary Film Festival, where the guest of honor was "Gulzar", noted India film maker, who is mentioned several times by Bose.

Also the reliance of traditional Indian performance to Bollywood film was explained by Bose. The films derive their format from live performances which combine acting, music, drama and comedy. At the village level and at the state cultural center I attended live performances of this type.

Bollywood (Hindi: बॉलीवुड, Urdu: بالی وڈ) is the informal term popularly used for Mumbai-based Hindi-language film industry in India. Bollywood is often incorrectly used to refer to the whole of Indian cinema; it is only a part of the Indian film industry. Bollywood is one of the largest film producers in the world, producing more than 1,000 films a year,[1] with ticket sales of 3.6 billion.[2]

The name is a portmanteau of Bombay (the former name for Mumbai) and Hollywood, the center of the American film industry. However, unlike Hollywood, Bollywood does not exist as a real physical place. Though some deplore the name, arguing that it makes the industry look like a poor cousin to Hollywood, it seems likely to persist and now has its own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. ...

From: Bollywood, Wikipedia
ps: Check your copy of the book to make sure all the pages are there. The copy I read was missing pages 17 and 24.

See also:

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Song downloads selling in France

For Australia Day 2007 I created Amazon store of books about Australia and by Australians in French and Australians in German. I sent a list to the Australian Embassy in Paris and Berlin. These books have sold reasonably well, such as Arthur Upfield's Du crime au bourreau. But what has been more popular are travel DVD's such as Faut pas rêver : L'Australie. La grande traversée. Also recently individual music downloads have become popular, particularly AC/DC's Back in Black, Blow Up Your Video and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. I wonder what impression this gives of Australia, with 1930s views of racial relations outback Australia in the Upfield books and 1970s rock music from AC/DC. ;-)


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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

ABC Second Life island not attacked

According to Abigail Thomas, Head of Strategic Innovation & Development, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the ABC island in Second Life was not damaged due to a cyber attack, as previously reported. There was a server error which caused problems with the site.

Abigail mentioned this at the start of her talk on "Technology and Media in 2020" at the National Library of Australia today.

One of the points she made that many of the new hot web applications sound very "lame" and uninteresting when described. You need to try the application and its social aspects to understand the impact. An example is Twitter.

Abigail pointed out that many of the examples of "new" web applications are not new at all. They existed on the Internet, but were only used by a few geeks before they had a slick web interface.

Some other interesting points were:

* Artificial intelligence will be used on-line.
* User generated content in real time and geo tagging,
* Your on-line activities will be recorded in your "life log",
* Each person will have multiple identities in different on-line worlds to preserve their privacy.

The questions were:

* How do we make money out of this?: How are the content creators compensated for their work, if all the content free and DIY? Abigail's answer was to work out how to integrate professional and user generated content. But it sounded like she was just going to let us rearrange the content from the ABC a little.

* How are professional journalists coping with integration of TV, radio and print: ABC staff now think about what they want to produce first, and the format (TV, radio, web).

* Tell us about ABC's second life island: Was an experiment. Started with an Four Corners program on TV and in second life, with discussion afterwards. Volunteers oversee DIY construction on part of the island.

But there will be some limitations to the future. One image of a phone shown on screen had on the bottom: "Available color: Jet black". While technology may expand our horizons, fashion will still dictate that black is the new black.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Digital Culture - Technology and Media in 2020

Digital Culture Talk
National Library of Australia

Technology and Media in 2020
Speaker: Abigail Thomas

Time: 12.30 to 13.30
Date: Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Venue: Library Theatre, NLA
Entry: Free
  • What will media and technology look like in 2020?
  • Do the seeds lie in current trends like the desire for user generated content, creativity, always-on connections and on-demand content?
  • Or should we look to science fiction to help us predict the future?
Biographical details: Abigail Thomas, Head, Strategic Innovation & Development, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Abigail Thomas has nine years’ experience within the digital and new media environment in the UK and Australia.

In her current role in the ABC’s new Innovation Division, Abigail is responsible for strategic research and development and the creation of innovative projects across the ABC which utilise new media platforms and technologies. This includes interactive television, video downloads and virtual worlds such as Second Life.

Abigail joined the ABC in 2000 and has had a number of different roles including responsibility for project managing the launch of ABC2, the ABC’s digital multichannel, overseeing audience and industry research in the new media space as well as providing policy and strategic advice on corporate issues.

Abigail also worked in the UK for the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport as Head of Commercial and Digital Broadcasting, with responsibility for government policy on the development of digital broadcasting, at a time when digital TV had just been launched in the UK. Prior to that she undertook a visiting research fellowship for the UK Government, researching digital TV developments in a number of countries (UK, Europe, US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan) and comparing government, industry and academic perspectives on the future implications of digital broadcasting and its regulation.

Bobby Graham
Web Content Manager
Web Publishing Branch, IT Division
National Library of Australia
Tel: +61 2 6262 1542
Previous talks in the Series:

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Corporate social networking with web 2.0?

The IT business media seem to be taking Web 2 seriously, so perhaps it is time to look at it. But there seem to be several concepts mixed up together (or perhaps "mashed up"?). Sorting this out may solve some problems in corporate document management and academic publishing.

One is the use of AJAX and similar technology to provide a more interactive interface via the web. Another is traditional office applications provided via the AJAX interface (such as word processors and spreadsheets). The third is on-line meeting places, such as MySpace.

There is also YouTube, a video sharing web site, which usually gets mentioned in the same articles but does not seem to have anything to do with social networking or corporate applications, but just gets included because it is popular.

Capitalizing on Interactivity, Mobility and Personalization by Donna Bogatin, January 22nd, 2007:
Categories: Business Models, Web 2.0, Culture, Google, Blogs, User-Generated Content, MySpace, Social Web, Amateur Content, Self-Promotion, Google Software Applications, Social Networking, Social Media

Is MySpace coming to the enterprise? According to Business Week it is.

On what does Steve Hamm base his assertion? IBM's announcement today of “Lotus Connections.”

IBM describes its offering as “the industry's first platform for business-grade social computing”:

Lotus Connections facilitates the gathering and exchange of information through professional networks, provides a dashboard-like view of current projects and connects users to like-minded communities. In addition, Lotus Connections removes the need for multiple social software applications, providing businesses with a single destination for building professional communities. ...
Corporate social networking is name of game with Lotus Connections, By Stan Beer, 24 January 2007 :
While Microsoft has been trying to win Web 2.0 corporate hearts and minds with Sharepoint Server, IBM threatens to steal the show with a new corporate tested offering called Lotus Connections. Web 2.0 in the consumer space is all about social networking as exemplified by sites such as MySpace, YouTube and FaceBook. Users of these sites with common interests can network, share ideas and provide each other with information that builds upon their mutual knowledge base.
The idea of using more interactive web applications makes sense in the corporate environment, provided you have the bandwidth and processing power to do it and accept its limitations. In some ways this is a step back to centralized mainframe computing, with the web application running on the server. If the central application stops, no one can do any work. This would be a good way to go if you have a new application to introduce across a wide network.

The extreme case seems to be to run your corporate service on someone else's web server. Google have a service called "Google Apps for Your Domain" which provides online tools for email, instant messaging and shared calendar. The idea is that the same tools used for Google's Gmail and others are available for use by companies, educational institutions and other organisations. They use the Google system in place of their own in-house software.

Google are not charging for these services, but presumably are doing it to make people more familiar with Google's services which have advertising on them:

Google Apps for Your Domain lets you offer private-labeled email, instant messaging and calendar accounts to all of your users, so they can share ideas and work more effectively. These services are all unified by the start page, a unique, dynamic page where your users can preview their inboxes and calendars, browse content and links that you choose, search the web, and further customize the page to their liking. You can also design and publish web pages for your domain.
I remain a bit skeptical of online meeting places as a business tool. Any form of collaboration requires skills from the participants. Not everyone has these skills and corporations will need to invest in training and staff to make them work. As well as cooperation, workplace involve competition. Perhaps rather than a social network, an information market would be a better model for the on-line workplace. Also much social networking takes place outside the organisation.

Are companies prepared to formalize and document online the process by which their staff trade information with other organisations? In many cases these contacts take place verbally and informally, while tacitly endorsed by superiors. If the contacts took place via a computer system, all transactions would be recorded and could be used in evidence in court. Much of these contacts would be considered unethical or illegal, limiting the scope for using a formal system.

What has this to do with corporate document management or academic publishing? Organisations, particularly governments, are having difficulty with staff filing electronic documents properly. Academia are having difficulty over the role of academic publishing. In both these cases the problem is that the records manager or librarian sees the document or publication as an end in itself.

But the office worker or academic author sees them just as part of a process; a byproduct of doing some work or some research. By incorporating the social network process in the system used to produce the document, keeping good records or publications will be a natural by product of the work. This is more than just an automated work flow which prompts you for some keywords before you can save a document.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Software Engineering, Locomotives and Cafes in Sydney

Tank engine craneOn Friday I visited Steven Bleistein and the Empirical Software Engineering Research Program team at National ICT Australia (NICTA).

NICTA is a Federal, State Government and university project with a lot of money (in Australian terms) for research, education and commercialization. NICTA is based at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney, the site of the historic Eveleigh Railway Workshops. In the past I have written how this is the ideal environment for promoting Australian technology.

It is the 150'th anniversary of railways in NSW this is where many of the locomotives where made. I walked into the ATP past a Crane Tank Locomotive through the foundry, which is now a working museum used for metal sculpture. Further on were IT exhibits and events, where I bumped into the local member of parliament, Kristina Keneally."Empirical Software Engineering" seems a tautology, but a quick search of CiteSeer shows the sort of thing Steven and his colleagues do. They are working out how to build IT systems which will be useful to business.

NICTA Researchers and Tom Worthington at CafeThe ATP is on the edge of the gentrification of inner Sydney, with old warehouses being turned into apartments and cafes. The NICTA people confirmed the Creative Class theory that "build a cafe and the technologists will arrive", by taking me to lunch at Cafe Sopra located above the Fratelli Fresh.

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